4/5/2013 8:25 P.M. ET
Former Astros manager Garner back in town with A's
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- A familiar face -- and mustache -- was on the field at Minute Maid Park prior to Friday's game against the A's. Former Astros manager Phil Garner, who works as a special assistant with Oakland, took in batting practice from the field and caught up with the few players and team employees left from his time in Houston.
Garner is close friends with A's manager Bob Melvin and assists him, as well as general manager Billy Beane, when asked.
"The main part of it is Spring Training, and during the season I can go join the club pretty much any time that I want to or any time Bob Melvin or Billy Beane ask me to," he said. "Occasionally, there's other responsibilities in there. I'll fulfill those, like last year when it became obvious we were going to be in the hunt, and I advanced the Rangers a couple of weeks and I enjoyed that."
Garner worked closely with outfielder Chris Carter prior to his trade to the Astros, and thinks the world of the slugger. Carter, pitcher Brad Peacock and catcher Max Stassi were acquired from Oakland in exchange for shortstop Jed Lowrie and pitcher Fernando Rodriguez in February.
"All three kids [Houston received] I really like," Garner said. "I think you're really going to like Carter. He's a great kid."
Garner lives in the Houston area and is still reminded about the team's glory years, with Garner leading them to the World Series in 2005.
"I'm walking around town and people will bring it up," he said. "It's nice to be remembered."
Blackley ready to step in and help Astros
HOUSTON -- The Astros didn't only get a left-hander capable of multiple innings when they traded for reliever Travis Blackley on Thursday, they got themselves a colorful character.
Blackley, who's an Australian with a thick accent, joined the club in time for Friday's game against Oakland, which traded him to Houston in exchange for Minor League outfielder Jake Goebbert. He flew in Friday from the Bay Area, where he was hanging out after being designated for assignment a week ago.
"It's just like changing schools," he said.
While he was awaiting his next move, Blackley took in an exhibition game at the Oakland Coliseum from the stands. His girlfriend and his family had an extra ticket to the game and invited him to go along, even though he wasn't playing on the team anymore.
"Why not?" he said. "I got to hang out with the guys in the right-field bleachers. They're always yelling 'Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!' when I'm pitching, and I might as well go say 'G'day' to them."
Blackley placed some pictures of his viewpoint in the stands on the internet, which were met by mixed reactions.
"I got an abnormally high amount of Tweets and messages on Twitter and Instagram from A's fans, some of them upset about it and some of them wishing me good luck," he said.
Blackley was eager to see what the Astros can do, saying no one expected the A's to compete in the American League West last year.
"Anything can happen in these games," he said. "It's always like that. Teams expected to win the division don't, and teams that aren't come out of nowhere and win. It's too early in the season to make any kind of thing about that, but I'm excited. I have a new family now, and I'm excited to do what I can do to help."
Blackley was 6-4 with a 4.10 ERA in 28 games, including 15 starts, with San Francisco (four games) and Oakland (24 games) last season.
White to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery
HOUSTON -- As expected, Astros right-hander Alex White is scheduled to undergo Tommy John surgery, likely within the next week. Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow said the procedure would be performed by Dr. James Andrews, who is based in Birmingham, Ala.
White injured the elbow pitching in an exhibition against the Cubs a week ago, and was placed on the 60-day disabled list, but he said it had been an issue for quite some time. He was examined by two team doctors, and Andrews confirmed the diagnosis after viewing the MRI.
"The opinion of all three doctors was the best course of action was to take care of it now, because there's a high likelihood it would get worse," Luhnow said.
White, 24, was acquired by the Astros from the Rockies in exchange for pitcher Wilton Lopez and Minor League pitcher Alex Gillingham on Dec. 4, 2012. White was 2-9 with a 5.51 ERA in 23 games last season (20 starts), but was 0-2 with a 3.51 ERA in his final 10 starts of the season.
Astros pitcher Philip Humber, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2005, told White he will have to be patient during his recovery.
"It's a long process, and he's in good hands whoever he goes to," he said. "They've got it down to an exact science as far as the surgery goes. The most important part of it is the rehab, and if you can go through it and not have a setback, you can come back and not worry about that part of your arm again."
First games with tandem starters go well
HOUSTON -- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said the first day of using tandem starting pitchers in the Minor Leagues went well. Triple-A Oklahoma City was rained out Thursday, but Double-A Corpus Christ, Class A Lancaster and Class A Quad Cities each won their openers.
Luhnow said in February the team would use tandem starters at the beginning of the season, meaning two starters would pitch in the same game. One would start the game and be followed by the other, giving everyone a chance to get innings. Luhnow implemented the practice as farm director in St. Louis.
"I'm familiar reading box scores when we do the tandem system, and what I like to see is the five and four [innings], and we had two of those last night," Luhnow said. "We had three wins in three games, and that was good to see. Lancaster is going to continue to be a challenge because of the conditions, but it was nice to get off to a good start."
At Corpus Christi, Ross Seaton went five innings and was followed by Jake Buchanan for three innings. Jason Stoffel closed it out with an inning. Mike Foltynewicz threw only 2 2/3 innings at Lancaster, which threw a wrench into the plans. Vincent Velasquez threw five innings in his start at Quad Cities, with Joe Bircher following four scoreless.
"We're not planning to do it the whole season," Luhnow said. "I can't tell you when we're going to switch back, but it's an important right now because it gives everybody a chance to have enough innings and enough starts that we can evaluate them properly."
Righty Gonzalez designated to make room for Blackley
HOUSTON -- The Astros designated right-handed pitcher Edgar Gonzalez for assignment to clear a roster spot for newly-acquired left-handed pitcher Travis Blackley, general manager Jeff Luhnow announced on Friday.
It's been a roller-coaster week for Gonzalez, who originally didn't make the 25-man roster as Spring Training came to close, but was added last weekend when Alex White was placed on the 60-day day disabled list with elbow problems. Gonzalez didn't appear in any of the Astros' first three games.
"Edgar's been valuable ever since we got him, and it's unfortunate when you have to designate someone that's currently on the roster in the big leagues," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "We had to do it to make the space. Edgar understands that, and we told him we're going to try to work it out so we could keep him in the organization."
Gonzalez was signed to a Minor League contract by the Astros last August and went 3-1 with a 5.01 ERA in six starts. The Astros were 4-2 in his six starts.